Somebody to Love

Kristan Higgins

Publisher: HQN Books
Publication Date: Apr 24, 2012
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Netgalley

After her father loses the family fortune in an insider-trading scheme, single mom Parker Welles is faced with some hard decisions. First order of business: go to Gideon’s Cove, Maine, to sell the only thing she now owns—a decrepit house in need of some serious flipping. When her father’s wingman, James Cahill, asks to go with her, she’s not thrilled — …even if he is fairly gorgeous and knows his way around a toolbox.

Having to fend for herself financially for the first time in her life, Parker signs on as a florist’s assistant and starts to find out who she really is. Maybe James isn’t the glib lawyer she always thought he was. And maybe the house isn’t the only thing that needs a little TLC….

Goodreads Summary

Parker Welles, a rich and beautiful single mother has just been handed the worst news of her life. Her father has not only spent every penny of Parker’s and her son’s trust fund without her knowledge, all of his assets are being seized by the government and Parker’s cushy lifestyle is now over. While she was never lavish with her wealth, she did enjoy a few creature comforts such as living in the family home, which she must now vacate immediately. The only thing Parker has left is some property a distant relation left her up in Middle-of-Nowhere, Maine. While her son goes on vacation with his father over the summer, Parker intends to travel to the house, do a few quick repairs and put it on the market as soon as possible. With limited time and limited funds, for the first time in her life Parker must get her hands dirty.

Well, maybe not as alone as she originally thought. Her father’s now unemployed attorney (AKA Thing One), James Cahill, shows up unannounced to help her with the project. Parker and James have a barely civil relationship at best, but once she sees how much work the house needs she can’t help but feel grateful for his presence. James feels guilty for his inability to warn her of her impending changes in circumstance (those pesky attorney/client privileges), and he hopes that working with her on the house will earn him a little forgiveness. The couple soon finds that they may have been a bit hasty in their initial impressions, and that the facade they’ve each put on over the years isn’t really who they are.

I need to get one thing out of the way before I head on to the actual review. Does anyone else think it’s bizarre when the author’s name is way bigger than the title of the book? Or is it just me?

I’ve read a few other Kristan Higgins’ novels in the past, with varying success. I’ve always really enjoyed the romance and the characters, but struggled with the point-of-view. Her previous books are solely told from the heroine’s perspective, and I came away from the book feeling cheated. I desperately wanted some insight into the hero’s thoughts/mind/actions, but it was never provided. It felt too one-sided for me. After all, a romance takes two people right? An author needs to have some major talent in order to pull off a romance novel with one point-of-view. In my opinion, at least. However, the author branched out with this novel and it was told from both Parker’s and James’ perspective. Hallelujah! This huge change so much better than her writing style of the past. Kristan Higgins could always tell a wonderful and heartfelt romance, but now we have a fuller picture to enjoy.

Somebody to Love takes place in the same town that Catch of the Day is set in, so if you’ve read it the setting and characters will be familiar to you. It just so happens that Catch of the Day is one of her books I haven’t read, but this is very much Parker and James’ story and I never once felt like I was the only one late to the party. I loved the small town vibe of this book, and the unique people of the town. Parker and James imersed themselves in the community, and the quirky and weird personalities were exactly what they needed to distract, heal, forgive, and learn to forget the past.

I loved both Parker and James, and really believed in their story. I’ve always admired Kristan Higgin’s ability of making her characters deeper than what you would originally expect from a contemporary romance novel. It’s almost like she’s creating her characters from real life people. I enjoyed learning the little tidbits and treasures that made them who they were.

My Summary: Somebody to Love is definitely my favorite book I’ve read from this author. While most of that praise is due to the change in writing style, Kristan Higgin’s consistently delivers powerful characters and a love story that you will remember long after the last page. Want to know one of my favorite things about the book? It has an epilogue. Oh, how I love my epilogues. 😉

My Rating: A

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Masque of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death #1)

Masque of the Red DeathBy Bethany Griffin

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/Steampunk
Source: Publisher

Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

Goodreads Summary

It’s possible that I was initially drawn to this by its cover. Maybe. But I loved the synopsis and it’s inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe story so I was sold in triplicate. I’ve had it sitting here for a couple of weeks now, taunting me and to be honest, I’ve been sort of afraid to read it because I’d been anticipating it for so long. I can stick it on my reread shelf now, since I got it done and it was the keeper that I’d hoped.

If Araby Worth had more courage, she might just end her life. Instead, she separates herself as much as she can from the real world in her parents’ luxury apartment or with her friend April and trips to the Debauchery Club behind her porcelain mask to protect her from the deadly plague. When her normal defenses don’t work, Araby looks for escape in drugs, not particularly caring who she scores from or even what they are.

It’s through the club that she meets Will and Elliot. They’re practically polar opposites: Will is dark, tattooed and poor while Elliot is blonde, refined, wealthy and April’s brother. Araby lost someone very close to her and had vowed never to kiss, hold hands – fall in love – with anyone because he wouldn’t have that chance either. Both boys rouse emotions she’s tried to suppress – romantic interest, hope for their crumbling society and renewed fears and worries about her family. There isn’t really the dreaded Love Triangle, although there’s romance. I know that’s sort of contradictory, but within the story and all the turmoil, the push and pull of the guys and Araby, it doesn’t come off as any kind of triangle at all. So…breathe out. Heaven knows I did.

Araby narrates the story, so obviously the city and people get translated through her. In the beginning, she’s doing everything she can to be detached and other than some brief flares of extreme emotion, she does seem pretty disaffected. Griffin writes with a slightly staccato style and it suits Araby perfectly. Later in the story, the writing gets looser as Araby’s emotions start going haywire. I think some people might find Araby dull or a little stupid with some of the decisions she made but I think given her age, the state of society and her desire to make things right, I understood her and even liked her. Even if she made some horrible choices, in a city where breathing bad air could kill you within days, she did make those choices instead of hiding and did things that put herself at risk when she didn’t have to because she thought she was doing the right thing.

Even in its lighter moments, this is still a grim story. The threat of death hangs everywhere, from the despot leader, Prince Prospero and the maniacal revolutionary Malcontent to the Weeping Illness and the Red Death. Every moment, everyone has to ask themselves – should they ever take their mask off and where, who can they touch, what do you do if you cut yourself? People who can’t afford the expensive porcelain masks don’t leave their houses or they risk using a flimsy fabric mask and possible death. Historic incidences of the plague are a sort of macabre interest of mine and Griffin really did her homework for more than just the emotional despair. I was torn between being fascinated and a little grossed out by her detailed descriptions of the latter stages of the disease and its mutated cousin. Grossed out is meant to be complimentary.

I’m not going to give away the ending, only say that Griffin knocked the wind out of me with it. I don’t know if I just was enjoying the story so much that I wasn’t paying attention or she just threw something in there that that hadn’t had any clues dropped about, but it completely wiped out the conceptions I had about nearly all of the characters. It was a devious, cruel, torturous twist that delighted me in a completely warped way since I normally hate those, “you figure it out,” endings with a passion and now I’m so anxious to read the next book, it’s crazy.

My Summary: I’m starting to open books with so-so expectations right now, and even though I had really been waiting for this, I tamped down my hope and just started reading – and was engrossed almost immediately. The dark world controlled by disease, the contrast of the disaffected, passionate and forgotten people and the suspense storyline hooked me. 2013 seems very, very far away for the next book.

My Rating: A

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)

R.L. LaFevers

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Historical
Source: Publisher

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Goodreads Summary

Ismae was plucked right out of her wedding night (which wasn’t going well, as her hubs was a total dirtbag), and shuffled through R.L. LaFevers version of the Underground Railroad. Ismae is taken to a convent specifically set aside to train young girls to be Handmaidens of Death. Or in layman’s terms: assassins. Ismae spends the next few years training herself in all manner of weapons, poisons and the art of womanly wiles. Ismae is finally deemed worthy to be sent on her first mission, which she successfully completes. However, just after she offed her mark, she runs into Gabriel Duval who is a bit livid that she’s killed his informant. It’s this very first mission where Ismae starts to doubt the Abbey, the Abbess and how to decide who needs to be killed. Ismae is dismayed that she quite possibly killed a man who was trying to redeem himself.

Brittany is in political turmoil, and as the bastard brother of the Duchess, he is embroiled right in the middle of it. Ismae’s next mission requires her to pair up with Duval, where he thinks she is being sent to protect the Duchess and find out who wants her dead. Her real mission is so spy on Duval, as the Abbess and the Abbey’s benefactor Chancellor Crunard are convinced that Duval is a traitor. As Ismae adjusts to court life and intrigue, she soon realizes that there is more to being a Handmaiden of Death than blankly following orders, and that those marked for death can redeem themselves. She also realizes that Duval is simply a man who wants to protect his sister and the future of his country. Ismae and Duval begin to rely on and trust each other, and Ismae is suddenly faced with the prospect of having to choose between the man she loves and the ideals instilled in her by the Abbey, the institution that saved her life. When the political turmoil comes to a head, Ismae and Duval have only each other to turn to in order to save their beloved country from war.

I posted this on a WoW awhile ago, and I was ecstatic when I heard we received a copy from the publisher for review. I LOVED Grave Mercy. I thoroughly enjoyed the history and rich descriptions of the character’s surroundings and way of life. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a historical novel that was non-Regency, and I missed the genre. I jumped right into the world of Grave Mercy easily, and I had no problem with keeping the characters and their names straight. It also helped that there was a map of Britanny, plus a character glossery telling me who everyone was. Gotta love those helpful authors.

Ismae is such a wonderful character. I loved her progression and growth from a young girl beat down by life, to one who knows her strength and isn’t afraid to follow her heart. Duval was fiercely loyal, and the kind of man every woman dreams they could find in real life. I loved watching their relationship unfold. It was slow and meandering as they overcame inital distrust to finally realizing they make the perfect team. They both loved the young Duchess (she was 12, can you believe it?!), and only wanted her happiness and safety. I quickly figured out who the real enemy was, but it didn’t detract from the story at all. In fact, even though I knew the essentials of what would happen, I was still shocked and surprised at how two-faced the traitor really was.

My Summary: Grave Mercy is utterly beautiful and can’t be missed. Powerfully written characters, a fascinating storyline and a sweet and poignant love story all come together to make what I consider a masterpiece. This book is the first in a series, and from what I understand, the other two books are going to be about Ismae’s two friends from the convent, Sybella and Annith with Sybella’s book next. I hope we see more of Ismae and Duval in the following books, but I was satisfied enough with the ending that I’ll be okay if they don’t make an appearance.

My Rating: A+

Scorched Skies (Fire Spirits #2)

Samantha Young

Purchase: Amazon or B&N
Publication Date: Mar 16, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Purchased

FEAR THE HEAT…

The White King has crossed the line, sounded the horn, sent out the wolves.

When blood is shed and life is lost the reality of Ari’s position as both hunter and prey finally sets in. It seems her father will stop at nothing to force her will to his own and distracted by Charlie’s latest mistake and her seemingly misguided attraction to Jai, Ari never thought to fear anyone else but the Jinn King.

Blindsided and attacked, Ari learns a new wolf has joined the hunt. A dark sorcerer believes he knows a way to bleed the power of the Seal and wield it as his own, and he is even less patient than The White King.

The War for the Seal has only just begun… and it’s time for Ari to turn it on its head.

It’s time for Ari to stop acting like the hunted.

It’s time for Ari to become the hunter.

Goodreads Summary

Five Reasons Why You Should Read Scorched Skies:

1. Jai – You sexy, sexy man

Because life is all about hot guys, right? Right. Jai is definitely at the top of my favorites list of hunky heroes. He’s Jinn, powerful and all about protecting Ari. You can’t help but fall in love with his wounded side, which stems from a tragic childhood spent with his messed up family. In Smokeless Fire, Jai was a bit of a mystery and while I fell in lust with him there, it wasn’t until Scorched Skies that I truly understood how amazing Jai really is. When Ari’s enemies get a little bit too close for comfort and she needs to flee, Jai takes her to his family’s home in California to hide out for a while and regroup. We are able to get a glimpse into Jai’s past and his horrible family, and it’s awful and I cried and I wanted to take kid-Jai away and protect him from everyone who treated him so terribly. Only a truly strong person can overcome what he did and come out okay on the other side. Oh Jai, you sexy, sexy man.

2. The ballsy heroine

Ari spent a lot of time in Smokeless Fire waiting around for things to happen to her. Mostly because she’d been hit with a bomb shell and her whole life is turned upside down. Ari now has to learn how to use these powers she never knew she had, all while fighting those pesky bad guys who won’t leave her alone. Ari flipped the switch in this book, and instead of waiting for things to happen, she went out and MADE them happen. She didn’t let Jai and Charlie coddle her, and she worked her butt off to learn everything she could so that she could defend herself against whatever came her way. I loved her development in this book, and how she took everything that happened to her (the beginning broke my heart! SOB), and owned it. Ari used her loneliness and heartache to become a girl I’m proud of. A girl I can cheer for. A girl I would desperately want as my best friend if she were real.

3. Love triangle shenanigans

What a tough choice for Ari. There’s sexy Jai who sets her blood on fire by his mere presence, but wants nothing more than a client/guardian relationship. Or Charlie, the guy she’s loved for years, but who turned to drugs and sex instead of her when his brother died. Charlie, who went behind her back and chose to become a sorcerer even though he knew Ari would hate it. Each guy wants something else, whether it’s to maintain his professional reputation or to have revenge on the Jinn who killed his little brother. Ari wants someone to want her first, before anything or anyone else. All of this relationship turmoil helped Ari to focus on learning how to use her powers so that she could take care of herself.  She does make a choice, but my lips are sealed on who it is and how everything works out. Y’all have to do some work yourself. 😀

4. Gott love the Jinn, baby

One of the things I love most about this series is that it’s completely different from anything else out there. While I love books based on vampire or werewolf lore, sometimes I need a break. I love being able to escape into the world of the Jinn and all their genie glory. Seriously, every time Ari’s creepy father pops into the story I envision Mr. Clean. Or Yul Brynner in The King and I. The old version, not the one with Jodi Foster (which is called Anna and the King). Did I just age myself?

Anyway.

The magic and fantasy in this series is unique, and Samantha Young has an amazing ability of sucking me into the world of her characters. I can’t wait to read Borrowed Ember, which comes out May/June-ish. Speaking of which, have you seen the gorgeous cover for Borrowed Ember? The model she picked for Jai is freakin’ hot! If his gorgeous body face isn’t enough to make you read the series, I don’t know what is.

5. Because I said so

Ha. Just kiddin’ on that last one.

Maybe.

Taken at Dusk (Shadow Falls #3)

Taken at DuskBy C.C. Hunter

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: April 10, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Netgalley/Publisher

Kylie Galen wants the truth so badly she can taste it. The truth about who her real family is, the truth about which boy she’s meant to be with—and the truth about what her emerging powers mean. But she’s about to discover that some secrets can change your life forever…and not always for the better.

Just when she and Lucas are finally getting close, she learns that his pack has forbidden them from being together. Was it a mistake to pick him over Derek? And it’s not just romance troubling Kylie. An amnesia-stricken ghost is haunting her, delivering the frightful warning, someone lives and someone dies. As Kylie races to unravel the mystery and protect those she loves, she finally unlocks the truth about her supernatural identity, which is far different—and more astonishing—than she ever imagined.

Goodreads Summary

Life at Shadow Falls is continuing mostly the way it has since the end of the first book. Kylie’s relationships with the other students continue to grow, her feelings for Lucas and Derek are confusing and she still has no idea what her paranormal gifts make her. She had some shocking powers manifest in the last book, and in search of answers she meets with the couple who adopted her late father. During the visit, Kylie sees a ghost who cryptically tells her that one will live, one will die.

The meeting ends up being more of a setback than a help and the ghost continues to visit Kylie with the same warning. She’s unable to remember who she is and doesn’t know how she needs to be helped over. I thought Kylie’s dad Daniel was a terribly sad ghost to be haunting her but this poor woman is worse. Some of the things she’s gone through that Kylie has to live through in her visions are horrible. In my review of the last book, I had complained a little because I thought the ghost/warning aspect of the story was the weakest and thought there needed to be some branching out beyond ghosts directly related to Kylie. She did interact with more ghosts this time, some within the main storyline, some not, and it was a nice addition along with Kylie using more of her other paranormal gifts.

Derek left at the end of Awake at Dawn and Lucas used his absence to get closer to Kylie. I don’t think I ever actually chose sides on this potential love triangle but Derek didn’t do much for me in the last book. He doesn’t exactly redeem himself for a good part of this one as he and Kylie struggle to remain just friends. I’m not really sure what to think of Lucas either. He has all the sexy, swoon-y moves down and I love the little reminders that he has this history with Kylie from when they were little kids. Then Derek went and did some nice things and got sort of romantic again and in spite of some of what happened, I liked him again. I give up and am just going to go wherever Hunter leads because I don’t think there’s a good or bad between the two of them.

The thing I love the most about the series is the whole dynamic between all of the members of Shadow Falls. Kylie and her roommates Della and Miranda are so funny and sweet and it’s been just as crazy to watch Miranda and Perry’s romance go up and down as it’s been to watch Kylie, Lucas and Derek go around. Camp leader and counselor Holiday is everyone’s dream big sister and I wish she and Burnett would just get over it and do the deed for cripe’s sake – it’s like watching Moonlighting with those two (that’s a reference probably only the old people will get).  They’re so adorably angsty, if there is such a thing.  Even the nasty members of the camp are growing on me.

Finally – yes – there’s resolution about what Kylie is. I really was shocked by how it all got tied together, but it was right. It almost felt like a big exhale – there are answers, it’s time to turn the page and start resolving some other things Kylie has going on.

My Summary: I’ve been dropping some of my series’ lately because they’ve either stalled or I just can’t work up enough excitement to remember when the next book is coming out. My anticipation for the next Shadow Falls books has been growing each time I finish one. I bought Born at Midnight. I found Awake at Dawn on Netgalley. I stalked the publisher for Taken at Dusk and I might camp out on St. Martin’s doorstep for Whispers at Moonrise.

My Rating: A

Pure (Covenant #2)

Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Publisher

There is need. And then there is Fate…

Being destined to become some kind of supernatural electrical outlet isn’t exactly awesome–especially when Alexandria’s “other half” is everywhere she goes. Seth’s in her training room, outside her classes, and keeps showing up in her bedroom–so not cool. Their connection does have some benefits, like staving off her nightmares of the tragic showdown with her mother, but it has no effect on what Alex feels for the forbidden, pure-blooded Aiden. Or what he will do–and sacrifice–for her.

When daimons infiltrate the Covenants and attack students, the gods send furies–lesser gods determined to eradicate any threat to the Covenants and to the gods, and that includes the Apollyon… and Alex. And if that and hordes of aether-sucking monsters didn’t blow bad enough, a mysterious threat seems willing to do anything to neutralize Seth, even if that means forcing Alex into servitude… or killing her.

When the gods are involved, some decisions can never, ever be undone.

Goodreads Summary

Since there are over 90 blogs participating on this tour, I’ve decided to do y’all a favor and keep this review on the short side. Or try to, at any rate. 😉 I feel like I’ve been getting a bit too verbose in my posts lately, and I know y’all have other things to do then listen to me blabber on and on. We all know how much I stalk love anything Jennifer L. Armentrout, so anything I say in this review shouldn’t be too surprising.

The summer is over and Alex has settled back into the Covenant school routine after spending three years away. Alex is still required to continue her extra training sessions, except now Aidan and Seth are splitting teaching responsibilities. It seems that an Apollyon-in-training has more to learn than the average student, and what better person to help out with that then the Apollyon? Alex is still madly in love with Aidan – even though it’s forbidden – and he is doing his best to protect her and ignore her at the same time. It’s quite maddening, really. Seth is a continual source of annoyance to Alex, since he seems to be everywhere she is and their connection is getting stronger, which makes it more difficult to keep anything private. Alex and Aidan have a major episode (SOB!), and Alex finally comes to the realization that sometimes people don’t always get what they want.

On the non-romance side, the daimons are becoming a serious threat and have now figured out how to infiltrate the Covenants/schools and are attacking from within. This development is a major blow, and the pure’s seem to have a hard time facing reality. In my opinion, anyway. The class issues in this series are fascinating, and Pure does nothing but drive a deeper wedge between the pures and half-bloods. About halfway through the semester, Alex leaves the safety of the school to attend the council session to give her testimony about the events leading up to, and including, her mother’s death. It seems that not everyone is jazzed about the idea of having two Apollyon’s, and Alex is continually targeted and harassed throughout her stay.

Since Aidan is sort of out of the picture now, Seth really steps up to the plate and watches out for Alex. In Half-Blood I thought Seth was a real jerk, but we get to see a different side of him in this book. Now, this is 100% my opinion, but I’m not sure that what Seth feels for Alex is romantic love. It always felt a bit familial to me (yes, even after the 324th time of reading the book). I think Seth is too arrogant and pompous (in an endearing, completely lovable way of course) to really ever settle down. While I think Alex is the most important person to him, and he genuinely likes her, I never got the impression that it was because he was in love with her. It was more of a “hey, we’re the only two of our kind, so it’s me and you against the world” type of love. Granted, I haven’t read whatever scene JLA wrote from Seth’s POV in the digital copy of Pure, so I could be totally off base. Am I wrong? What do you think? If I am right, I do wonder how Alex the Apollyon could ever be with Aidan (which is what I’m rootin’ for, trust me). Alex and Seth have such a unique bond, and it seems like they come as a package. I’m so nervous about how it’s all going to work out! Seriously, I’m biting my nails over here.

My Summary:  Pure was deliciously amazing in every possible way. It was leaps and bounds away from the dreaded Second Novel Syndrome, and it did a great job of keeping the passion, mystery and excitement up going into the rest of the series. JLA pulled every emotion out of me in this book. I cried, I laughed, I swooned and I desperately wished for a real life Seth to drop in my life. JLA has perfected the art of creating characters that I care about, that I need to be happy and safe. I have no predictions for where the series is going (clearly), but I’ll happily go along with wherever JLA will take me.

My Rating: A+